Viacom's MTV Will Tweet If Lady Gaga Pulls a Kanye West on Justin Bieber

Viacom Inc.’s MTV is counting on Twitter Inc. and Lady Gaga to outdo last year’s Video Music Awards, when viewership surged after rapper Kanye West jumped onstage to interrupt Taylor Swift.

More than 8 million people viewed parts of last year’s show at MTV.com and 2 million tweets were posted on Twitter, many after West disrupted Swift’s acceptance speech, the network said. Posts on Twitter and Facebook Inc. led the show to average 27 million viewers, the most since 2002.

To build on last year, MTV will let viewers of the Sept. 12 show send messages through its site on Twitter and Facebook, and view and post videos after events occur. MTV is looking to harness social media to attract a demographic audience of teens and young adults who don’t want to miss what friends are experiencing.

“We clearly want people to watch the show,” Kristin Frank, senior vice president and general manager of MTV.com, said in an interview. “We also know we have millennial fans. They aren’t just watching TV. They also have laptops and mobile phones in front of them. They demand more and more immersive experiences.”

The importance of an online presence was underscored in August, when Universal Music Group, the world’s biggest record label, pulled videos of its artists from MTV.com. An agreement was reached for the awards show, where Lady Gaga has the most nominations this year. The blackout affects only the website, not videos shown on the MTV channel, the network said.

‘Jersey Shore’

“It’s all about the demo,” Richard Greenfield, an analyst at BTIG LLC in New York, said in an e-mail. He said in a Sept. 8 note that MTV is drawing viewers to “Jersey Shore” and other shows by incorporating social media as “advertising is rebounding and that will attract investor attention.”

Viacom, controlled by Chairman Sumner Redstone, rose $1.20, or 3.7 percent, to $33.76 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The Class B shares have gained 14 percent this year.

Companies are realizing the benefit of advertising during a television show and simultaneously on its Web component, said Andy Donchin, director of media investment at advertising company Carat North America in New York.

“We’re seeing social media drive viewers to broadcast and cable,” Donchin said in an interview. “We reach more people.”

Using Twitter data, MTV created interactive graphics to illustrate volume and posting frequency during the show about nominees including Lady Gaga, Katy Perry or Justin Bieber, or program topics. Graphics will appear on viewers’ televisions, a reminder they can broadcast reaction to friends.

Interactive Graphics

“MTV has aggressively and creatively embraced this user behavior,” Chloe Sladden, who oversees media partnerships at San Francisco-based Twitter, said in an e-mail.

Yahoo! Inc. joined with MTV to provide programmed searches online tied to winners, performances and on-screen events during the show.

The network is no stranger to coupling Web content with shows on the air: MTV sponsored an online chat with Michael Jackson back in 1995.

Now, MTV.com is in a struggle for online video dominance. Vivendi SA’s Universal Music, along with Google Inc.’s YouTube and record companies EMI Group Ltd. and Sony Corp.’s Sony Music Entertainment, started a video site last year called Vevo.com.

Universal Music pulled its videos from MTV.com after talks failed on a syndication deal to replace one that expired in July. Later, MTV.com was able to attract more visitors last month than Vevo.com by combining online audiences with Warner Music Group, the network said, citing researcher comScore Inc.

Brief Cease-Fire

MTV.com and Universal Music said their accord lets videos of the record company’s artists nominated in the show be used online. After the show, MTV.com loses the right to use the artists’ videos.

“Since it is such a big night for music fans and artists, we were able to work out a deal,” Kurt Patat, a network spokesman, said in an interview. MTV and Universal Music are still discussing use of videos beyond the show, he said.

Peter Lofrumento, a spokesman for Santa Monica, California- based Universal Music, confirmed the deal and declined to comment further.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net

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